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Beware the Bloggers

I love the idea of blogging: transparency, freedom of speech, pure Internet-fueled democracy at its best. But I’m beginning to hate the actual practice. I don’t have strong feelings one way or the other for Dan Rather or Eason Jordan, both of whom lost their jobs at the hands of a rabid pack of blood-thirsty bloggers. But in both situations, bloggers ratcheted up what should have been a nice “gotcha” into a good-old-fashioned, Arthur Miller-worthy witch hunt.

I love the idea of blogging: transparency, freedom of speech, pure Internet-fueled democracy at its best. But I’m beginning to hate the actual practice. I don’t have strong feelings one way or the other for Dan Rather or Eason Jordan, both of whom lost their jobs at the hands of a rabid pack of blood-thirsty bloggers. But in both situations, bloggers ratcheted up what should have been a nice “gotcha” into a good-old-fashioned, Arthur Miller-worthy witch hunt.

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In Rather’s case, a still-credible story about whether President Bush lied about his military service got subsumed in a far more trivial issue that has come to be known as Memogate. That so-called scandal led to Rather’s involuntary “re-assignment” and the firing of four respected CBS news veterans. For his part, Jordan hinted during a session at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that U.S. soldiers used journalists for target practice in Iraq, though he quickly backpedalled onstage as soon as co-panelists called him on his comment. Last Friday he “resigned” his post as CNN’s chief news executive.

Sure, some will see this as a case where smug liberal elites got their comeuppance at the hands of the common [wo]man wielding little more than a tough question and a PC (David and Goliath, anyone?). But just wait until the echo-chamber turns on you. Let’s say you have a momentary lapse in decorum in some semi-public setting where you, God forbid, say something negative about Iraq, Bush, the military, or whatever else seems to set the bloggers ablaze. Or what if Enron, say, had perpetrated a fraud on your company and some blogger brings this to light, then jumps to a knee-jerk conclusion that you should be fired and somehow manages to convince the rest of the blogosphere to (injudiciously) join the call?

All of a sudden bloggers have gone from being on the lunatic fringe to playing a powerful new role in public dialogue. Embrace this. Celebrate it. But at the same time, watch your back because you could be the next victim. (And yes, the irony of using a blog to complain about blogging has been duly noted!)

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